Non-human animals, almost inarguably, bring us unprecedented amounts of joy. In fact, 68% of participants in one study claim that spending time with their pets cheers them up more than spending time with human family or friends.
(Honestly, is anyone surprised?)
However, there's the other side of things- the side to which even many pet parents turn a blind eye- and, in doing so, arguably perpetuates torture on those beings who, apparently, bring us the most joy.
Well, they aren't unwanted, really- they are unknown. Unrecognized, undervalued and so often, discarded.
Until we get to know them.
These are other non-human animals. The ones who don't make it into our homes, or singularly into our hearts. They're the ones we have yet to meet and those we will never meet.
Because if we are honest with ourselves, and take an unbiased approach, we could, given an open heart, forge an incredible, meaningful and loving bond with so many non-human animals. Including the ones we eat. Including the ones we let sit in a cage year after year, while we choose a breeder from whom to select our new 'family member'.
The calls to mind a greater question- what creates connection? Is it a timid approach to selecting precisely with whom we feel we will want to spend our time, who will best serve our own needs, consciously or not?
Or, are the most meaningful connections also the most heart forward- where we put our biases aside, our preconceived notions, and appreciate the other being for who they really are- their sentience. They want love just as much as every one of us.
Why don't we choose them?
And a greater concern- why do we let them suffer?
Well, the thing is- if we take a more rational approach to love, we can reduce suffering. A rational approach to love- it sounds counter intuitive, and in a way, it is- love is supposed to feel good. We want that, immediately- it isn't supposed to be scary or have uncertainty. Or so we think. It is meant to be an instantly safe space. And maybe it is sometimes! But to what depth.
How can we appreciate that for which we do not have to struggle?
We won't get to spend time with most of the calves born into this world, destined for the same dictated purpose as their mother. Or a veal crate. We won't get to surprise ourselves with a friendship of a chicken, or pig, or elderly dog.
There's only so much we can do. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't do everything we can to create a better life for those who would, arguably, cheer us up more than our closest human friends and family.
Here's a breakdown of how you can support those animals who are either lucky enough to end up in the loving care of a rescue, or those who can't even dream of such an outcome.
6 Ways to Help Sanctuaries and Rescues
1. Donate: set up a stable, monthly donation to an organization of your choice- you can set this up online through the rescue's organization. This helps with their cash flow planning and does not have to be a lot. Even $5 helps! A lot!
2. Volunteer: hands on- and it does not have to be directly with the animals, if that isn't your thing. Connect with local organizations to see what they would need- you're guaranteed to find one which will need your special talents. Bonus? You'll get back as much as you give.
3. Don't supply: Animal rescues do not need more animals- live consciously and don't increase demand. How do we reduce demand? We don't buy animal products (if we keep buying, industries will keep making- products from and of animals). We don't support organizations who profit off of animals who put profit above the animals' well being.
4. Adopt and FOSTER: If you are able to, fostering animals through a rescue organization is a fantastic way to support caring for animals. If you want to keep one animal forever, fantastic- but remember, a lot of animals need a 'gateway' home until they find their forever home and would love to hang with you until they find that forever family.
5. Tell a Friend (tactfully): I honestly cannot believe how it is 2022 and folks are still buying animals from breeders, eating their flesh and secretions, and avoiding facing their feelings of guilt by any means. It. Is. Bananas. However. However, a lot of these people are absolutely fantastic in many other ways- let's help them align with the rest of their wonderful selves and share, non confrontationally, about what you are doing to help animals. (As opposed to what they should be doing. You can be very inspiring, my friend.)
6. Enjoy the process: Connect with like minded individuals, watch some cute videos of success- the positive can be motivating, while I find the negative, while also extremely motivating, can be very defeating. Remember- so long as you keep going, you are helping to make some very dire situations much better. If we all gave up, that would be a very bad thing.
The longer I operate Zimt, and the less I profit from it financially, the more at peace I am with what the focus should be, and is. Zimt is a vegan company- it isn't about selling vegan products, its about promoting a peaceful approach to life.
And it is just one way to do that- but I do believe it is a fundamental way. Taking life from someone who wants to live is the least we can commit to forgo. That isn't to say that it is easy nor that it doesn't require an adjustment (sometimes a big one) and that isn't to say that it should be the priority for everyone- but it should be for many, many more people- what are we doing with our time? Where is our focus? From whom are we taking when we really do not need to? Are they the most vulnerable? Do we see them?
As a quick aside, I know it likely does not go without saying that I don't want to demonize ominvores or anyone who isn't vegan- some of my favourite humans on this planet are not vegan. Do I think that we would behave more consistently with our intrinsically empathetic side if we were more honest with ourselves? I do.
So- the goal of Zimt remains the same. Spread the word, via chocolate, e-newsletters, blog posts, you name it. And, to make money- because there are many, many beings out there desperate for the help it can provide. It isn't to get rich- it is to share wealth.
With whom are we sharing (a little bit of) wealth?
Sanctuaries we are honoured to work with
Well, we've worked with many great organizations over the years and look forward to doing that more and more. Here are two we are consistently supporting with (little, but heart-felt- for what it is worth) contributions.
Hearts on Noses - I wrote about Hearts On Noses on our 'organizations and causes and generally what needs to be fixed in for profit industry' page. Check it out! They're lovely. Strange, but absolutely great.
A Home For Hooves - Another local-to-Zimt, volunteer run organization who has about 200 residents in their care! And from many areas of the tree of live, too. They also have had a foster-to-adopt program since 2019 for those animals who are able to live outside of the sanctuary in safe, loving homes. A Home For Hooves provides a safe, lifelong haven for all animals who need it- especially those who are less likely to be adopted, older, or sick. They also offer educational workshops, seminars and classes to spread the word about how we can treat our fellow animals better.
So. Let's wrap things up.
There are many avenues we can take to support rescues and sanctuaries. However, if we do give it serious thought, the best way to support these animals, and the sanctuaries and rescues who care for them, is to limit the supply- limit the animals going in to be saved.
Origins of Need: When We Domesticated Animals
Prior to the agricultural revolution and selective breeding, animals were all wild. We didn't interfere with their reproduction and they certainly didn't interfere with ours! At least, not on such a grand scale as today.
Of all the mammals on planet earth today, we make up 36% of that group. Approximately 60% of this mammalian group, are animals we human animals raise for food. That leaves 4% on the mammals on our planet being wildlife. 4%. We did almost all of that in approximately 300 years, with the advent of the Second Agricultural Revolution. It took us 300 years, approximately, to go from nearly all animals being wildlife, to reducing that by 96%. Primitive homo sapiens (our species of human) came to be about 300,0000 years ago. So, in 0.1% of our existence as a species, we managed to wipe out 96% of wildlife. Not good.
This is where it is easy to go off on a tangent, but I will try to keep it succinct: human activity, including but not limited to, mining, ecologically irresponsible agriculture and urbanization create devastating consequences for the longevity of wildlife species. And this sobering fact: animal agriculture accounts for 1/3 of the world's total landmass use. 1/3 of our land on this planet, which we are meant to share with other species- we take 1/3 of the land, and breed more animals who are destined to die- when we don't need to do that. We take homes away from birds and fish, bear, elephants, wolves and lynx, because we demand more and more.
If nearly 60% of the mammals on this planet are in dire need of rescue from being killed, and the other 4% are being continually encroached upon and put at risk how are small organizations supposed to manage that? It is fighting an uphill battle- and it is not fair to expect them to do that while contributing significantly to the problem itself.
So. Take a look at that list- you don't have to do it all in one day. In fact, you can absolutely get away with not doing any of it. But that is precisely the problem- we are taking advantage of a vulnerable and fragile group of individuals. We live in excess and turn a blind eye to their pain. And we don't have to- you don't have to participate in this. Even though you won't be able to fix everything, even though there is a lot you won't be able to fix, you can work to make better what you can make better. And somebody out there, whether they realize it or not, will really, really appreciate it.
Well, that went longer than I thought it was going to go. But the more I wrote the more the pieces started to fit together and unravel at once. And that's just what it is- a great unravelling, with a frantic, earnest few holding as many tumbling pieces together as they can.
PS- should you want to watch the associated video I did for this, here is the link